The Lawfare Podcast features discussions with experts, policymakers, and opinion leaders at the nexus of national security, law, and policy. On issues from foreign policy, homeland security, intelligence, and cybersecurity to governance and law, we have doubled down on seriousness at a time when others are running away from it. Visit us at www.lawfareblog.com.
Recently, former CIA officer Jerry Lee was arrested and sentenced for his role in misusing classified information. At the same time, reporting indicates that CIA officers in China have been arrested or turned by Chinese authorities. What's the connection between these two? David Priess sat down with John McLaughlin and Shane Harris to talk about, of course, the Jerry Lee case, counterintelligence in China, and the impact on the U.S.-China relationship.
In this episode from Lawfare's Arbiters of Truth series on disinformation in the run-up to the 2020 election, Quinta Jurecic, Evelyn Douek, and Alina Polyakova spoke with Tiffany Li, a visiting professor at Boston University and a fellow at the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. They talked about how privacy law can inform platform governance, and how prioritizing privacy might help tackle disinformation—as well as what tensions there might be between those two goals.
Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss his recently released report on the Russia investigation. The hearing was contentious and occasionally devolved into speechify-ing. But we cut out all the unnecessary repetition and theatrics to leave you with just the questions and answers that you need to hear.
Benjamin Wittes spoke with Margaret Taylor, Quinta Jurecic, Jack Goldsmith, and David Kris about the new articles of impeachment unveiled today and the inspector general's investigation. They talk about where the report vindicates the FBI, where it severely criticizes the FBI, and those very peculiar statements from the attorney general and John Durham, the U.S. attorney from Connecticut.
In a marathon day, the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony from Judiciary and Intelligence Committee staffers Barry Berke, Daniel Goldman and Steven Castor. The hearing was contentious and filled with interruptions, but we cut out all the grandstanding and theatrics to leave you with just the questions and answers that you need to hear. 00:00:30: Berke 00:30:30: Castor I 00:56:00: Goldman 1:41:00: Castor II 2:27:30: Rep. Nadler/Majority Counsel 3:14:00: Rep. Collins/Minority Counsel 3:52:00: Member questions
Lawfare's Susan Hennessey sat down with John Watts, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Skowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, and JD Work, the Bren Chair for Cyber Conflict and Security at the Marine Corps University, who are authors of "Alternate Cybersecurity Futures." They talked about the behind-the-scenes of strategic policy planning, the value of creativity, and what scenarios emerge when you ask cybersecurity experts to predict the future.
It's another week of impeachment, and we thought it warranted gathering everyone around the table to talk about it. Margaret Taylor, David Priess, Susan Hennessey, and Scott R. Anderson joined Benjamin Wittes in the Jungle Studio to talk about the Schiff report, the Nunes/Jordan pre-rebuttal report, the House Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday with a bunch of law professors, and Nancy Pelosi's message on Thursday afternoon that impeachment was going forward.
Quinta Jurecic and Evelyn Douek spoke with David Kaye, the United Nations special rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression. They talked about international law, fake news, and the pitfalls and promises of internet governance.
Senator Tim Kaine is perhaps best known as Hillary Clinton's 2016 vice presidential running mate. For purposes of Lawfare, however, he is better understood as the Senate's leading exponent of congressional authority in the war powers domain. Benjamin Wittes sat down with Senator Kaine in the Senate Russell Office Building to talk about all things war powers.
Last month, Tamara Cofman Wittes, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, and Brian Egan, former legal advisor to the State Department and National Security Council, participated in the Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens Memorial Lecture at the UC Hastings Law School. The conversation takes a step back from current events to look at the broader strategic landscape following the U.S. withdrawal from Syria.
Brian Kalt's book, "Unable: The Law, Politics, and Limits of Section 4 of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment," is about the mere 270 words that comprise that section. David Priess spoke with Brian about the drafting of the 25th Amendment and the discussions around its various provisions; how the media often gets important parts of the amendment wrong, and how an invocation of the 25th Amendment's 4th section would actually work.
It's the week it all went public. What had been dry pages of deposition transcript turned into live witnesses, sometimes many of them a day, in front of the House impeachment investigation. Benjamin Wittes sat down with Scott R. Anderson, Susan Hennessey, Margaret Taylor, and Alina Polyakova to talk about what's happened this week, the new information we got and what it means that we have it all live in person, the foreign policy implications, disinformation, and what comes next as impeachment rolls on.
On Thursday, Fiona Hill, the former National Security Council Russia adviser, and David Holmes, counselor for political affairs at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine, testified before the House Intelligence Committee. Here is the testimony of Hill and Holmes with no member-infighting, no speechifying, and no unnecessary fluff.
In a new episode of Lawfare's Arbiters of Truth series, Quinta Jurecic, Evelyn Douek, and Alina Polyakova, spoke with Ben Nimmo, the director of investigations at Graphika. They talked about how disinformation works; how a researcher knows where to look to find disinformation; how to tell when a strange pattern of tweets or Facebook posts is actually a disinformation campaign; and whether it's possible to counter these campaigns effectively, or if this work just is a never-ending game of whack-a-mole.
The evening testimony on Nov. 20 extended into the night, so we are bringing the podcast version to you this morning. The House Intelligence Committee heard from Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper and Under Secretary of State David Hale. We’ve taken out all the grandstanding and all the repetition, so you can just listen to the portions of the testimony that you need to hear.
It was another exciting day at the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland testified in the impeachment inquiry. While two more officials testified in a second hearing after Sondland, we thought his testimony was important enough to bring you ASAP. Here is the testimony of Amb. Sondland in the impeachment inquiry with no member-infighting, no speechifying, and no unnecessary fluff. Here are some time-stamps to guide your listening: Sondland opening: 00:00:59 Democratic Counsel (and Chairman Schiff) 00:37:15 Republican Counsel (and Ranking Member Nunes) 1:23:30 Democratic Counsel (and Chairman Schiff) 2:07:15 Republican Counsel (and Ranking Member Nunes) 2:40:30 Member Questions: 3:00:00
In the afternoon of Nov. 20, the committee heard from Tim Morrison, the former senior director for Europe and Russia at the National Security Council, and Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine. At Lawfare, we have taken out all the unnecessary speeches, partisan bickering, and repetition to bring you just the portions of the testimony you need to hear.
On the morning of Nov. 20, the committee heard testimony from Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, U.S. Army officer and the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, and Jennifer Williams, a foreign service officer detailed to the Vice President's staff. We have taken out all the unnecessary speeches, partisan bickering, and repetition to bring you just the portions of the testimony you need to hear.
On Monday, Benjamin Wittes moderated a discussion with Senator Mark Warner and Representative Jim Himes at NYU Law School as part of the "Catching the Cybercriminal: Reforming Global Law Enforcement" conference sponsored by the Center for Cybersecurity at NYU, the Journal of National Security Law and Policy, and Third Way. They talked about the state of cybercrime, whether cybercriminals could be caught, and what more law enforcement in the United States should be doing to curb malicious cyberattacks.
This week, Roger Stone was convicted on seven counts by a jury in the District of Columbia, and three State Department officials testified before the House Impeachment Committee. There's been a lot going on, and Benjamin Wittes assembled an all-star, all-Lawfare crew to talk through it all. Quinta Jurecic, Margaret Taylor, Susan Hennessey, Scott R. Anderson, and David Priess make appearances to talk about different aspects of the week's events.
Former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testified before the House Intelligence Committee as a part of the impeachment investigation. Yovanovitch answered questions about her career, her experience in Ukraine and her abrupt dismissal. The hearing saw some of the same grandstanding and distractions as the first public hearing, But we cut out all the unnecessary repetition and theatrics to leave you with just the questions and answers that you need to hear.
In an experiment in incorporating greater transparency and accountability, Facebook has created a new Oversight Board, a body that will have the power to review policy and content moderation decisions made by the platform. In this episode of the new Arbiters of Truth series, Evelyn Douek spoke with Zoe Darmé, manager of Facebook's Global Affairs and Governance team, who is leading the global outreach efforts in support of the Oversight Board.
On Wednesday, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence held its first in a series of public hearings pursuant to its impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to interfere with the 2020 election. Today the committee heard testimony from George Kent, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the European and Eurasian Bureau, and William Taylor, the top U.S. Diplomat in Ukraine. While the witnesses had a compelling story to tell, there was some disagreement among the members about both facts and process, so we cut out all the bickering, all the speechifying, and all the procedural maneuvering to bring you just the testimony that you need to hear.
Since the 2008 election, the New York Time’s Charlie Savage has helped rescue the significance of questions of executive power. Savage surveys presidential candidates on a range of executive power questions and publishes their responses. Jack Goldsmith talked with Savage and Justin Florence of Protect Democracy about the history of the executive power survey, the value of the questionnaire, and the takeaways from responses to this year’s questions.
It Friday, March 22, 2019. It’s been nearly two years since Robert Mueller was first appointed Special Counsel. Now, he’s ready to submit a final report to the Attorney General. He has uncovered a sprawling and systematic effort by Russia to interfere in the 2016 election. And he’s developed a mountain of evidence about the president’s efforts to obstruct his investigation, things like witness tampering, ordering the creation of false records, and trying to fire Mueller himself. But Mueller’s got a problem: a Department of Justice memo says he can’t indict a sitting president. So what is he supposed to do with all this evidence? Mueller decides to just lay it all in the report, all 448 pages of it. It’ll be someone else’s problem to decide what to do about it: maybe a future prosecutor, maybe Congress, maybe the America electorate. That isn’t really Mueller’s concern. He’s done what he was asked to do. Now his report can speak for itself.
Over the past several weeks, popular protest movements have emerged in both Iraq and Lebanon, expressing widespread discontent with the status quo in both countries. To discuss these developments, Scott R. Anderson sat down with Randa Slim of the Middle East Institute; Rasha Al Aqeedi, managing editor of Irfaa Sawtak; and Tamara Cofman Wittes of the Brookings Institution.
In this episode of the Arbiters of Truth series—Lawfare's new podcast series on disinformation in the run-up to the 2020 election—Quinta Jurecic and Evelyn Douek spoke with Daphne Keller, the director of intermediary liability at Stanford's Center for Internet and Society, about the nuts and bolts of content moderation.
Impeachment has dominated the news for more than a month, but the flurry of headlines often leads to more confusion than clarity. On Monday, November 4, Darrell West, vice president and director of Governance Studies at Brookings, moderated a panel of Brookings experts discussing impeachment developments and giving helpful context. Joining West were Benjamin Wittes, Molly Reynolds, Bill Galston, and Elaine Kamarck.
We’re almost at the end of our story. This episode will cover the final set of activity that the Special Counsel examines for possible obstruction of justice: the president’s behavior towards his long time attorney Michael Cohen. Unlike the other possible acts of obstruction in Volume II, which mostly occur after Trump takes office, the relevant conduct towards Cohen spans the entire time period at issue in the Mueller investigation. It starts all the way back before the campaign. To Trump Tower Moscow.
Last month at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin, Stephanie Leutert joined Bobby Chesney and Sheriff Benny Martinez on stage to discuss an incredible new research project on Lawfare. They talked about how Sheriff Martinez came to share a large quantity of data with Stephanie on the many people who have died in his county trying to evade a border patrol checkpoint, the challenges of search and rescue and body recovery operations in a rural county, and how Washington policy is making it all worse.
This is the first episode in a series—"Arbiters of Truth"—about disinformation and online speech in the lead up to the 2020 election.
From Russian election interference, to scandals over privacy and invasive ad targeting, to presidential tweets: it’s all happening in online spaces governed by private social media companies. In this series, Evelyn Douek, Kate Klonick, Alina Polyakova, and Quinta Jurecic talk to experts about the challenges our new information ecosystem poses for elections and democ
Philip Mudd is a counterterrorism and national security analyst with CNN, but before that, Mudd spent 25 years working at the Central Intelligence Agency, on the NSC staff, and eventually at the FBI. His third book is "Black Site: The CIA in the Post-9/11 World." David Priess sat down with Phil to talk about his career at CIA, the book, his research into the advanced interrogations and the interrogation program at CIA after 9/11, and the ethics of it all.
President Donald Trump announced on Sunday that Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, died in a raid conducted by U.S. Special Operation Forces. The president used highly unusual language to describe the raid, including that al-Baghdadi “died like a dog.” He also stated that the U.S. would be “leaving soldiers to secure the oil.” Scott R. Anderson and Dan Byman join Benjamin Wittes to discuss the raid, what it means for the future of the Islamic State, Trump’s speech and what it all means for the broader region.
It’s January 2018. Paul Manafort and Rick Gates are in a whole lot of trouble. The past is catching up to them. Three months earlier, they’d both been indicted on multiple felony counts and now it looks like there might be even more charges coming. Gates is getting nervous--they’re facing many years in prison. Manafort tells Gates to relax. He’s talked to the president’s personal counsel. He says they’re going to “take care of us.” Manafort tells Gates he’d be stupid to plead guilty now, “just sit tight, we’ll be taken care of.” Gates wants to be crystal clear on what exactly Manafort’s getting at. So he asks: Is the president going to pardon them?
It's been a wild few weeks in British politics: possible new elections scheduled; Brexit impending and then delayed (we think); and a possible Brexit deal signed, but not yet ratified. A couple of weeks ago, Ben Wittes sat down with Helen Thompson, and they had a conversation about the state of British constitutional government. But before we had a chance to run it, a whole lot happened, so we also asked Amanda Sloat for an update.
Amb. William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, testified on Tuesday in a close-door meeting with Congressional committees involved in the impeachment inquiry of President Trump. Tuesday afternoon, the Washington Post published a copy of Taylor’s opening statement. Scott R. Anderson analyzed that statement in an article for Lawfare, explaining what it adds to what we know of L’Affaire Ukrainienne. In the latest edition of the Lawfare Podcast Shorts, you can listen to that article in-full, read by the author, Lawfare’s own Scott R. Anderson.
In 2014, the precipitous fall of the ancient city of Mosul signaled the sudden rise to power of the Islamic State, a group that would soon declare a new caliphate from Mosul's Great Mosque. Two years later, Mosul served as one of the group's last major enclaves in Iraq. Last week, Lawfare senior editor Scott R. Anderson sat down with two journalists who have produced new works documenting the battle for Mosul: veteran war correspondent James Verini and former CIA official Dan Gabriel.
It’s February 6, 2018. Don McGahn is back in the Oval Office with President Trump and the new White House chief of staff John Kelly. The New York Times has just published a story reporting that, back in June of 2017, Trump had directed McGahn to have Mueller fired and that McGahn had threatened to resign rather than carry out the order. The story doesn’t look good. Trump says: “You need to correct this. You’re the White House counsel.” Trump wants McGahn to say it never happened. But McGahn knows that it did happen. The White House Counsel is sticking to his guns. He’s not going to lie. The president asks again. Is McGahn going to do a correction? McGahn feels Trump is testing his mettle, seeing how far he can be pushed. And so he answers: No. He’s not.
It's been a horrible week in northeastern Syria. The U.S. abandoned its Kurdish allies after the president pulled the plug on the stabilizing U.S. presence in the region. The Turkish government began a major incursion over the border, producing significant casualties and major questions about ISIS detainees in Kurdish custody. To talk through it all, Ben Wittes spoke with Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Scott R. Anderson, Dan Byman, Oula A. Alrifai, and Leah West.
A couple of weeks ago, Lawfare and the Strauss Center for International Security and Law sponsored a series of panels at the Texas Tribune Festival. For this episode, we bring you the audio of our Tribfest event on domestic terrorism—what it is, how we define it, how we outlaw it, and what more we can do about it.
David Priess sat down with Bobby Chesney of the University of Texas School of Law, and former U.S. government officials Lisa Monaco, Mary McCord, and Nick Rasmussen.
It’s May 17, 2017. White House Counsel Don McGahn is in the Oval Office with the president. McGahn’s job is to represent the office of the presidency, which isn’t quite the same as representing the president personally. It’s a delicate line to walk, and Trump hasn’t made the job any easier. McGahn is supposed to act as the point of contact between the White House and the Department of Justice, to ensure all the rules are being followed. But the president has made clear, he’s not interested in following the rules. Trump has already fired his FBI director. That’s why McGahn is in the Oval that morning, they need to interview a new nominee for the position. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is there too. Sessions interrupts the meeting. He has an urgent phone call from the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, so he steps outside to take it. Sessions returns a moment later and relays the message: Rosenstein has appointed a Special Counsel to oversee the Russia investigation. It’s the former FBI director, Robert Mueller. Trump slumps back in his chair. He says, “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m fucked.”
At his rally in Minneapolis earlier this week, President Trump received voluntary security from an unexpected source: the Oathkeepers, a far-right militia associated with the white supremacy movement. This isn’t the first time that the Trump administration has crossed paths with such groups. To learn more about these groups, Scott R. Anderson recently spoke with journalist Leah Sottile, who is the host of the podcast Bundyville, which does a deep dive on America’s far-right militia movement.
Privacy advocates are locked in a stalemate with law enforcement, with the former arguing that encryption is vital for cybersecurity, while latter has argued that law enforcement agencies need some way to lawfully access data. A working group is endeavoring to break this impasse, with a new paper entitled “Moving the Encryption Policy Conversation Forward.” Benjamin sat down with two members of the working group, Susan Landau and Jim Baker, to discuss the paper.
It’s March 7, 2017. The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing on the nomination of Rod Rosenstein to be the Deputy Attorney General. Rosenstein’s whole career has been leading up to this moment. He’s a non-partisan sort of guy. He’s served under both President Bush and Obama. Now he’s being elevated to the role of running the day to day at DOJ. But this hearing is about more than just confirming a new deputy attorney general. On March 2, five days earlier, Attorney General Jeff Sessions had announced his recusal from all investigations involving the 2016 election, a recusal which included the Russia investigation. And so, the moment he becomes deputy, Rosenstein will also become the acting attorney general for the purposes of the Russia investigation.
In 1975, labor union leader and American icon Jimmy Hoffa went missing. One of those frequently considered a suspect in Hoffa’s murder is Chuckie O’Brien, Hoffa’s longtime right-hand man. O’Brien also happens to be the step-father of Lawfare co-founder and Harvard Law Professor Jack Goldsmith. At the Texas Tribune Festival, Benjamin Wittes sat down with Goldsmith to discuss his new book "In Hoffa's Shadow," how he came to write it, and his relationship with Chuckie.
The revelation that President Trump and his envoys pressured the Ukrainian government for information about debunked claims of Biden family corruption in Ukraine have brought Ukrainian domestic politics onto the American stage. The Ukrainian side of this very American scandal is complicated yet vital to understanding the whistleblower complaint and the reality of what happened with the Ukrainian prosecutor and Joe Biden’s son. Quinta Jurecic sat down with Alina Polyakova to break it all down.
It’s January 26, 2017. Sally Yates is the acting Attorney General; she’s leading the Justice Department until Jeff Sessions is confirmed by the Senate. Yates has just learned some alarming news. The new National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has lied to FBI agents. He’s told them that he hadn’t discussed sanctions in a call with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. But he had. And it looks like Flynn has lied to the vice president about it as well. Yates calls White House Counsel Don McGahn. She says they have to meet right away. Yates knows that the FBI has the tape to prove Flynn lied, which is a crime, but right now there’s an even bigger problem: the Russians probably have the tape too.
At the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin, Texas, Benjamin Wittes sat down in front of a live audience with John Bates, a senior district judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, where he has served since 2001. From 2009 to 2013, he served as the presiding judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court. They talked about the role of the FISA Court, its procedures and caseload, and how the Court might respond to cases that have an overtly political context.
Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire appeared before the House Intelligence Committee to discuss his handling of the whistleblower complaint that alleges inappropriate conduct by the President related to his interactions with the Ukrainian government. In the hours preceding Maguire’s testimony, an unclassified copy of the complaint was released to the public. The hearing saw Democrats scrutinize Maguire’s handling of the complaint and the administration’s role in withholding it. The hearing occasionally devolved into discussions of conspiracy theories about Democrat’s motivations to investigate Trump’s conduct and the party’s ties to Ukraine. But we cut out all the unnecessary repetition and theatrics to leave you with just the questions and answers that you need to hear.
The White House has released a memorandum of a July 25 call between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and President Donald Trump. The call is at the center of the new impeachment inquiry into the president, and is reportedly also the subject of a whistleblower complaint that the Department of Justice has prevented the Acting Director of National Intelligence from sharing with congressional intelligence committees. For the second time this week, Lawfare put together a special edition podcast. Scott Anderson, Susan Hennessey, Quinta Jurecic and Margaret Taylor joined Benjamin Wittes in the Jungle Studio, while Bob Bauer, David Kris and Bob Litt called in from afar to discuss the new revelations and what this all means for the president, Congress and the impeachment inquiry.
Jack Goldsmith sat down with John Fabian Witt, professor of law at Yale Law School to talk about Witt’s new book "To Save the Country: A Lost Treatise on Martial Law," which features a previously undiscovered manuscript written by Francis Lieber, a legal adviser to Lincoln’s White House and key thinker in the development of American laws of war.
There is an evolving a standoff between the House Intelligence Committee and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence over a whistleblower complaint reportedly involving President Trump. Meanwhile, reports have emerged that Trump urged the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden’s son during a July telephone call between the two leaders—have captured national attention in the past week. In a series of public comments, both President Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, have confirmed certain aspects of Ukraine reporting. Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire is scheduled to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday and will likely face questions about the whistleblower, the president’s phone call and the potential links between the two. Benjamin Wittes talked with Susan Hennessey, David Kris, Bob Litt and Margaret Taylor to try to make sense of it all.
It’s May 12, 2017. The FBI is still reeling from the sudden firing of Director James Comey. Andrew McCabe has only been the acting Director for 3 days. He’s trying to talk to Rod Rosenstein about the issue weighing on his mind: how are they going to protect the Russia investigation? The FBI is already investigating whether the president has tried to interfere with that inquiry. But the Deputy Attorney General is distracted and upset; he can’t believe the White House is making it look as if firing Comey were his idea. He says “There’s no one I can talk to. There’s no one here I can trust.” McCabe urges Rosenstein to appoint a special counsel. The credibility of the FBI and DOJ are on the line; without a special counsel a firestorm threatens to destroy the nation’s storied law enforcement institutions. It’s five days later—Wednesday, May 17—when McCabe sits beside Rosenstein in the basement of the United States Capitol where they’ve assembled the Gang of Eight. Then Rosenstein announces that he’s made a decision. He’s appointed a special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation and the new inquiry into the president: Robert S. Mueller III.
Josh Campbell spent twelve years in the FBI, including work as a supervisory special agent and as special assistant to FBI Director James Comey. He is now a CNN law enforcement analyst and the author of “Crossfire Hurricane: Inside Donald Trump’s War on the FBI.” David Priess sat down with Josh to discuss the mission of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, his career there, what he calls President Trump's war on the FBI, and a unique perspective on the day of Director Comey's firing.
Tensions in the Middle East are at a high point. Over the weekend, large Saudi oil facilities were attacked. The Yemeni Houthis jumped in to claim responsibility. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran. President Trump tweets that the U.S. is 'locked and loaded' and ready for potential response. To talk it all through, Benjamin Wittes spoke with Gregory Johnsen, Suzanne Maloney, Samantha Gross, and Scott R. Anderson.
Between European pressure, data breaches, and scandals associated with social media manipulation, the idea of some kind of comprehensive privacy legislation has gone mainstream over the last couple of years. But while people agree over the idea of privacy legislation, the substance of it is fiercely contested. To explore the competing visions of what we're trying to do when we talk about privacy legislation, Ben Wittes moderated a discussion with David Hoffman, Sally Greenberg, Cam Kerry, and Lydia Parnes.
The lengthy August recess has come to a close, and Congress is back. We have an impeachment investigation, we have an expanded scope of that investigation, we have confrontations between the executive branch and the legislature, and we have all of the other work Congress is supposed to do——like budget issues and a National Defense Authorization Act. Molly Reynolds and Margaret Taylor sat down with Benjamin Wittes to talk about it all.
In August, the State Department’s OIG handed down a scathing report alleging political manipulation and abusive practices inside the department’s International Organization bureau. At the same time, a number of career State Department officials have resigned due to alleged complaints and disagreements with Trump administration officials and policies.
To dig into these developments, Scott R. Anderson spoke with Foreign Policy reporters Colum Lynch and Robbie Gramer and Lawfare’s Margaret T
We've heard a lot about the national security concerns posed by companies like Huawei getting a foothold in 5G networks. We're told that China is aggressively deploying 5G technology and that the United States and the West are lagging behind. But is this the right way to think about the security challenges posed by 5G? Margaret Taylor sat down with former Chairman of the FCC Tom Wheeler to discuss these issues and his new article on why 5G requires new approaches to cybersecurity.
It’s April 18, 2019, Attorney General Bill Barr summons reporters to the Department of Justice in Washington DC. Robert Mueller’s report is about to be released. Before the press and the public finally see the document for themselves, Barr wants a chance to tell his own version of the story it contains. But is the bottom line according to Barr the same as the bottom line according to Robert Mueller? We’ll let you decide. Previous episodes have told the story of the factual findings of the Mueller report—what did investigators figure out about what happened? And what were the questions they couldn’t fully answer? Conducting the investigation is one part of the Special Counsel’s job: collecting evidence and assembling a record. But the investigation actually supports Mueller’s larger responsibility: he must reach a set of legal conclusions about the evidence his team has found. The Special Counsel needs to decide which parts of the story laid out in Volume One of the Report amount to prosecutable crimes. This episode covers those decisions. Where does Mueller decide to bring charges? And when he doesn’t, is that because he thinks nothing improper or possibly criminal occurred? Or is it because he finds that the evidence just isn’t sufficient to prove things beyond a reasonable doubt? Here’s what the Mueller Report says about how the Special Counsel’s office made these decisions.
Janet Napolitano served as the secretary of homeland security from 2009–2013. Before that, she was attorney general of the State of Arizona and the governor of that state. David Priess spoke with her by phone to talk about the whole range of issues that Homeland Security encompasses. They talked about some of the things that she tried to do that didn't work, some of the things she did that she thinks worked pretty well, and some of the things she thinks that this administration could be doing better.
On August 5, the Indian government announced that it was revoking “special status” for the states of Jammu and Kashmir, enshrined in Article 370 of its constitution. Since then, hundreds of people have been detained, there have been mass protests, and tens of thousands of Indian troops have been deployed to the region. Professor Christine Fair of Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program sat down with Benjamin Wittes to discuss Article 370, its history, and the current state-of-play in the regi
It’s December 29, 2016. The Obama administration announces that it’s imposing sanctions on Russia, as punishment for election interference. Michael Flynn has been tapped to become Trump’s national security advisor when the new administration takes office in January, but it’s still the transition period. Flynn is taking a few days vacation at the beach, when he sees the news. He grabs his phone and texts the transition team at Mar a Lago. He writes “Tit for tat with Russia not good” and says that the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak is reaching out to him today. Flynn calls Kislyak and asks that Russia not escalate in response to the sanctions. Apparently, it works. The next day, in a surprise move, Putin says that Russia won’t retaliate. Trump tweets, “Great move on delay (by V. Putin). I always knew he was very smart.” In the sixth episode, we tell the stories of Russian policy outreach to the Trump campaign, a story that begins during the campaign and accelerates after Trump unexpectedly wins the presidency in November 2016. The story of the Russian efforts to reset relations with the incoming administration begins with a policy speech Trump delivers at a hotel in Washington D.C.; it runs through a resort at a remote island in the Indian Ocean; it runs through the U.N. Security Council, Mar a Lago and the Dominican Republic, and it ends with the president’s national security adviser resigning in disgrace.
In a recent white paper, Protect Democracy makes the case that President Trump has used the powers of the presidency, federal resources, and intimidating rhetoric to manipulate election outcomes in the United States. The paper offers recommendations for legislation on six issues ranging from preventing voter intimidation to requiring campaigns to disclose offers of financial assistance. Jessica Marsden, counsel for Protect Democracy, sat down to discuss it all with Benjamin Wittes.
David Priess sat down with Michael Desch to discuss Michael's new book, "Cult of the Irrelevant: The Waning Influence of Social Science on National Security." They discussed the different roles of social science in the policymaking process and the value of academic scholarship for policymakers. They also talked about the history of the relationship between the national security community and academia and about how to bridge the gap between these two worlds.
It’s the morning of April 25, 2016. At a hotel in London, a Maltese professor meets with a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. The two have been in touch over the past few weeks; the professor has been helping the young man connect with Russian officials. Now, over breakfast, the professor lets him in on a secret. On a recent trip to Moscow, high-level government officials told him that the Russians have “dirt” on Trump’s opponent. What was the “dirt” in question? “Emails,” he says. They have “have thousands of emails.” This is the fifth episode of our narrative audio documentary, The Report, which tells the story Robert S. Mueller lays out in his famous 448-page document. This is the story of three men associated with the Trump campaign: George Papadopoulos, Carter Page and Paul Manafort.
Andrew Beck Grace and Chip Brantley are the creators of the NPR podcast audio documentary White Lies, which deals with the murder of Rev. James Reeb in Selma, Alabama, during the Civil Rights Era. Benjamin Wittes talked with Andrew and Chip about how to tell the story of a murder that happened a long time ago, the FBI's role in investigating the crime at the time (what they did badly, and what they did right), and what it all says about terrorism today.
Sasha O'Connell had a long career at the FBI where she served in a variety of strategic management positions. She was basically the FBI's Chief Strategy Officer.
She joined Ben Wittes in the Jungle Studio to talk about what it takes to turn a ship like the FBI when it comes to issues like IT, technology, and investigative focus—like changing an organization to focus on terrorism and then noticing that you also have to focus on cybersecurity.
The fourth episode of Lawfare’s narrative audio documentary, The Report, which tells the story Robert S. Mueller lays out in his famous 448-page document. This is the story of two Trump Towers, one in Moscow and one in New York. While Donald Trump was assuring Americans that he had no business in Russia, Mueller describes how he was simultaneously endeavoring to build a skyscraper with his name on it in Russia’s capital. And he describes as well the now infamous Trump Tower meeting in Manhattan, where Russians offered to give the candidate “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Episode 1 covers the Russian social media campaign and the activities of the Internet Research Agency. Episode 2 focuses on the Russian hacking operation; the stealing of documents and emails from the Democratic National Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and figures associated with the Clinton campaign; and the leaks of the stolen materials timed to affect the U.S. election. The second episode tells the story of the GRU operations, the Russian attempts to cover their tracks, and the involvement of Wikileaks and Julian Assange. Episode 3 covers the Trump campaign’s involvement in the distribution of hacked materials. In the fourth episode, we take on two aspects of Volume I of the Mueller report that both involve Trump Towers. The first is the ill-starred effort to build a Trump Tower Moscow, which began long before the campaign and continued—notwithstanding repeated statements to the contrary by the candidate, his family, and hist campaign—through the spring of 2016. The second is the so-called Trump Tower meeting in July 2016, when a group of Russians met with Trump campaign officials offering “dirt” on Hillary Clinton—and the campaign welcomed them. This episode features Anthony Cormier, Jason Leopold, Julia Ioffe and Quinta Jurecic. We continue to be delighted by the reception to this podcast series. We hope people continue to engage at such a high level with the material we putting together. Please continue to subscribe, rate, and share it widely. We are grateful to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Democracy Fund for their support for this project. If you want to support work of this type at Lawfare, please consider becoming a monthly donor by clicking here: Support Lawfare
The United Kingdom has a new Prime Minister. It also has a looming cliff it is careening toward and about to leap off of on Halloween of this year.
This week, Benjamin Wittes sat down with his Brookings colleague Amanda Sloat to talk about all things Brexit. They talked about the new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, his views on Brexit, the deadlock between Britain and the European Union, and the way the Brexit debate plays out in American politics.
To discuss the concept of "executive privilege," Margaret Taylor sat down with Mark Rozell, the Dean of the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, and the author of "Executive Privilege: Presidential Power, Secrecy and Accountability." They talked about what executive privilege is, what is new in the Trump administration's handling of congressional demands for information, and what it all means for the separation of powers in our constitutional democracy.
While Trump campaign officials engaged with the Russian social media manipulation operation as unwitting dupes, the story of the Trump campaign’s involvement with the GRU email hacking operation is more complicated. Episode three is entitled "The Campaign and the Leaks." It covers the Trump campaign involvement in the distribution of hacked materials. No American took part in the actual Russian hacking of Democratic emails, but when it came to actually releasing the stolen emails, the story is more complicated. First, the Trump campaign and associates had a number of direct and indirect interactions with Wikileaks about releases of stolen materials. And second, in what may be the most bizarre escapade of the entire Mueller report, the Trump campaign, including Trump himself, set out on a wild goose chase to get probably-fake Clinton emails from probably fake Russian hackers—even as real Russian hackers were busily releasing real Clinton campaign emails. In this episode we also tackle a section of Mueller’s report that is largely redacted in order o prevent harm to the ongoing prosecution of Roger Stone. As listeners will see, a great deal of what is behind those redactions can be gleaned from court filings in the Stone case, as well as from the special counsel’s draft plea agreement which Jerome Corsi declined to agree to and instead publicly leaked. This episode features Shane Harris, Julia Ioffe, Quinta Jurecic, Mark Mazetti and Matt Tait. We are grateful to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Democracy Fund for their support for this project. If you want to support work of this type at Lawfare, please consider becoming a monthly donor by clicking here: Support Lawfare
Mary Ann Glendon is the chair of the Commission on Unalienable Rights, announced by Secretary Pompeo on July 8, 2019, to great controversy. Glendon, the Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, sat down with Jack Goldsmith to discuss the commission, what it is and isn't looking at, and why examining the root bases of human rights claims is a worthwhile endeavor for a State Department commission.
Few nations have a history with the United States that is as complicated as that of the Republic of Iraq. Today, several factors are putting entirely new pressures on this relationship, one that many believe remains essential to maintaining regional security.
To help examine these dynamics and what they might mean, Scott R. Anderson spoke with Ambassador Douglas A. Silliman, who from 2016 to early 2019 served as the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad.
Jonna Mendez is a former CIA Chief of Disguise, who is also a specialist in clandestine photography. She is the co-author, with her late husband Tony Mendez, of "The Moscow Rules: The Secret CIA Tactics that Helped America Win the Cold War." David Priess spoke with Jonna about the experiences that she and her husband had at CIA, evolving the Moscow Rules, and applying these new disguises and technologies in the service of national security.
Last week, we released the first episode of this narrative audio documentary, which tells the story Robert S. Mueller lays out in his famous 448 page document. This week, Mueller testified before the House of Representatives in what many people hoped would be hearings that brought the document to life. Whatever role Mueller’s testimony may or may not have played in that regard, we are pleased to bring you the second episode of our effort to bring the Mueller Report into narrative form. Episode 2 focuses on the Russian hacking operation, the stealing of documents and emails from the DNC, DCCC and figures associated with the Clinton campaign, and the leaks of the stolen materials timed to impact the US election. The episode tells the story of the GRU operations, the Russian attempts to cover their tracks, and the involvement of Wikileaks and Julian Assange. It features Thomas Rid, Ben Buchanan, and Laura Rosenberger. We are grateful to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Democracy Fund for their support for this project.
On Wednesday, former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III testified before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees. There was plenty of repetition and plenty of pontification. So we cut all that out to just bring you the testimony that you need to hear. Not only that, but—in both committees—the Democratic and Republican members advanced very different narratives about the Mueller report and investigation. Listening to the questions alternate between the two sides almost gave the audience a sense of whiplash. So we’ve done something a little different for this “No Bull” Podcast, we’ve combined all of the Democratic no-bull questions into one segment and the Republican no-bull questions into another. So here are the Democratic members of the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees questioning Robert Mueller.
On Wednesday, former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III testified before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees. There was plenty of repetition and plenty of pontification. So we cut all that out to just bring you the testimony that you need to hear. Not only that, but—in both committees—the Democratic and Republican members advanced very different narratives about the Mueller report and investigation. Listening to the questions alternate between the two sides almost gave the audience a sense of whiplash. So we’ve done something a little different for this “No Bull” Podcast, we’ve combined all of the Democratic no-bull questions into one segment and the Republican no-bull questions into another. So here are the Republican members of the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees questioning Robert Mueller. Editor’s Note: During Rep. Martha Roby’s questioning, there are four seconds of audio missing due to a technical error in the House of Representatives recording.
Former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III testified on Wednesday before the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees. Following the hearing, Lawfare brought together Jim Baker, Bob Bauer, Susan Hennessey and Margaret Taylor for a conversation hosted by Benjamin Wittes. They talked about the testimony, what it means for Congress, and President Trump, and they talked about Mueller’s legacy as he leaves the scene.
Finally, this week, former FBI director Robert Swan Mueller III will testify in front of the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees about the findings from his work as Special Counsel investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 election as well as any coordination or links between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign. To preview this testimony, David Priess spoke with Molly Reynolds, Margaret Taylor, and Benjamin Wittes.
Jack Goldsmith sat down in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to have a conversation with former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. They talked about Carter's new book, his time as head of the Pentagon, the challenges of conveying national security threats to the American public, the Obama administration's response to the rise of the Islamic State, offensive cyber operations, and the role of lawyers in defense policy.
For the past several weeks, a group of us has been working on a project to tell the story of the Mueller Report in an accessible form. The Mueller Report tells a heck of a story, a bunch of incredible stories, actually. But it does so in a form that’s hard for a lot of people to take in. It’s very long. It’s legally dense in spots. It’s marred with redactions. It’s also, shall we say, not optimized for your reading pleasure. Various folks have made efforts to make the document easier to consume: the report is now an audiobook; it’s been staged as a play; there have been live readings. We took a different approach: a serialized narrative podcast. The extended network of writers, experts, lawyers, and journalists around Lawfare represents a unique body of expertise in the public conversation of the issues discussed in the report. So we teamed up with Goat Rodeo, a podcast production group in Washington, to use that group of people as a lens through which to tell the story contained in the report. The first episode, entitled “Active Measures,” is now out and covers the Russian social media campaign and the activities of the Internet Research Agency. It features Alina Polyakova, Clint Watts, John Sipher, and Thomas Rid.
Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, has spent the last forty years studying democracy. Over the last few years, he’s observed democratic values begin to crumble to political pressure, while authoritarianism is on the rise. Diamond sat down with Benjamin Wittes to discuss his latest book “Ill Winds: Saving Democracy from Russian Rage, Chinese Ambition, and American Complacency.”
Our friends from the National Security Institute at George Mason University stopped by earlier this week for their 3rd edition of Faultlines, to discuss a slew of U.S. foreign policy challenges. Lester Munson, Jodi Herman, and Dana Stroul, all former Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffers, as well as Matthew Heiman, an NSI senior fellow and experienced international and national security attorney, talked about Iran, the G20, North Korea, and what other U.S. foreign policy issues they are watching.
To talk about congressional oversight of the executive branch, Margaret Taylor sat down with Austin Evers, the executive director of American Oversight, and Michael Stern, who served for many years as the Senior Counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives. They talked about pending oversight litigation, the House of Representatives’ strategy, how the Trump administration is responding, and if any of this is normal.
Benjamin Wittes sat down with Dan Byman, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution's Center for Middle East Studies and Lawfare's foreign policy editor, to discuss his new book, "Road Warriors: Foreign Fighters in the Armies of Jihad."
Early this week, about 200 protestors broke into and occupied the seat of Hong Kong's legislative assembly. The protests began with a controversial law about extradition to mainland China. Today we ask: WTF, Hong Kong? To answer that question, Benjamin Wittes spoke with Alvin Cheung, an expert on Hong Kong's legal system based at New York University, and Sophia Yan, the China correspondent for The Telegraph in London who has been covering the Hong Kong protests.
Benjamin Wittes sat down with Mike Chase, whom you probably know better on Twitter as @CrimeADay. Mike has a new book: "How to Become a Federal Criminal: An Illustrated Handbook for the Aspiring Offender." Ben and Mike chatted about the super wacky laws and wacky fact patterns in the book, the Twitter feed, and all those national security crimes you never knew you were violating.
Benjamin Wittes sat down with Mike O'Hanlon who writes on military affairs and foreign policy, and has been a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution for a long time. His latest book is "The Senkaku Paradox: Risking Great Power War Over Small Stakes." The title says it all. It's about the places in the world that are the potentially most explosive flashpoints over the least important U.S. interests.
Errol Morris is a celebrated documentarian whose films have covered an array of topics in law and national security. They include "The Fog of War," which won an Oscar for its account of Robert McNamara's role in and lessons from the Vietnam War, and "The Unknown Known," which told the story of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Morris most recently directed "American Dharma," a documentary about Steve Bannon. Earlier this year, Morris sat down with Jack Goldsmith for a conversation about those three films.
It's getting ugly in the Persian Gulf: Iran allegedly attacks two oil tankers. It announces that it's going to violate the JCPOA, the so-called Iran nuclear agreement. There's talk of military strikes. Europe is edgy.
Benjamin Wittes sat down with Suzanne Maloney and Scott R. Anderson to talk it all through. They talked about whether the AUMF covers Iran, why Iran is doing this stuff, whether the Trump administration brought this all on itself, and where it's all going from here.
Russian and Chinese leaders understand that they’re unlikely to win a shooting war with the United States, but they have other ways to challenge Western interests, turning our greatest strengths into weaknesses.
Jim Sciutto calls it “the shadow war,” and it’s the subject of his new book of the same name. David Priess sat down with Jim to talk about these asymmetric threats to national security, and what the United States and its allies can do to fight back.
With the 2020 presidential election on the horizon, last week, Stanford's Cyber Policy Center published a report on securing American elections, including recommendations on how the U.S. can protect elections and election infrastructure from foreign actors. On Monday, Susan Hennessey spoke with two of the report's authors: Alex Stamos and Nate Persily.
In this episode of the special Culper Partners Rule of Law Series, David Kris and Nate Jones speak with John Bellinger. In his remarks, John expresses a profound anguish over assaults on the rules-based international order. It's a sobering conversation with one of America's foremost international lawyers.
Last week, David Priess spoke with Nada Bakos about what a CIA targeting officer does, what it was like interrogating detainees in Iraq, and the difficulties she encountered in getting her new book, 'The Targeter,' to print.
How do intelligence agencies balance competing interests in protecting privacy and civil liberties, ensuring transparency and accountability, and safeguarding the country’s most sensitive secrets? To shed light on the subject, on Friday, Brookings hosted a conversation between Ben Huebner, Privacy and Civil Liberties Officer at the CIA, and Brookings Federal Executive Fellow Ryan Trapani, who previously served as a spokesman for the agency, who discussed how the CIA handles that dynamic.
Last month at the 2019 Verify Conference, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation hosted a panel discussion featuring former CIA Deputy Director Avril Haines, former Pentagon chief of staff Eric Rosenbach, and New York Times national security correspondent David Sanger. They talked about how the U.S. projects power in cyberspace, the difficulties of developing norms to govern state behavior in that domain, and more.
Our friends from the National Security Institute at George Mason University stopped by earlier this week to discuss U.S.-China relations. Lester Munson, Jodi Herman, Jameel Jaffer, and Dana Stroul, former Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffers who collaborated and sometimes competed with one another on the Committee, had a lively discussion about Huawei, cyber and tech security, the South China sea, and Uighur internment.
Chuck Rosenberg is an analyst with NBC News and MSNBC. He also has a podcast with MSNBC called The Oath with Chuck Rosenberg. In the podcast, Chuck speaks with other former government officials about their careers, pivotal moments they witnessed in history, and what drew them to public service. He sat down with Benjamin Wittes this week to discuss his podcast, his career in government service, and his thoughts on the Oath of Office.